School closings are not effective in reducing severe Covid-19 cases, study finds

C. G.

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If at the beginning of the pandemic of Covid-19 no one seemed to doubt that the closing of schools was a necessary measure to curb infections and serious cases, now there is increasing evidence that schools are not the problem and that depriving children of attending centers does not translate into a significant improvement in health data . Among other things, because it has been shown that the circulation of the virus among the smallest is low.

Researchers from the University of Hong Kong, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute suggest that a reduction in fatal cases of coronavirus can be achieved without the need for as much social disruption, in a study on the impacts of the closures of several types of facilities published by AIP Publishing’s “Chaos” magazine.

After running thousands of simulations of the pandemic response in New York City, with variations in social distancing behavior at home, in schools, in public facilities, and in the workplace, while considering differences in the interactions between the different age groups, the results were surprising. The researchers found that school closures are not very beneficial in preventing serious cases of Covid-19. Less surprising is that social distancing in public places, especially among older populations, is the most important factor.

«School only accounts for a small proportion of social contact … People are more likely to be exposed to viruses in public facilities such as restaurants and shopping malls, ”says Qingpeng Zhang, one of the authors. “With our focus here on serious infections and fatalities, school closures contribute little if older citizens are not protected in public facilities and elsewhere,” he warns.

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Because New York City is so densely populated, the effects of schools are significantly less than general day-to-day interactions in public, because students are generally the least vulnerable to serious infections. “Students can be a bridge between vulnerable people, but these people are already highly exposed in public facilities. In other cities where people are much more distant, the results may change, ”warns Zhang.

The authors emphasized that while these findings have promising implications, it is still only a model and cannot capture the complexities and subtle details of real-life interactions to a perfect extent. “Given the mixed patterns of age and location, there are so many variables to consider, optimization is challenging. Our model is an attempt, ”concludes Zhang.

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